As you take down your 2015 puppies and kittens calendar to put up something new and equally adorable for 2016, January feels like a good time to start fresh. So begins a new year, a new month, a new day. We pack away the holidays and plan to “get back on track.”
A few weeks ago roughly forty-five percent of Americans made resolutions vowing to do things like exercise more, lose weight, eat more vegetables, pay off debt, etc.
As a point of reference, only one third of Americans will watch the Super Bowl.
That’s a lot of resolve, however, of those making resolutions, only 8% will be successful.
Why do resolutions tend to fail? It’s in their (lack of) structure.
Resolutions tend to be wishes or hopes based on something we would like to change about ourselves. Usually these come about due to feelings of guilt, envy or a sense that we should behave differently in some regard. At its core, a resolution is vague, undefined and has no real plan to achieve the desired end. In contrast, goals are specific, measurable and can be broken into smaller pieces to be acted upon.
This year, don’t make resolutions, create goals.
To be successful, goals need a plan for achievement and a timeframe surrounding them so they don’t just hang out there to happen “someday” (those are called dreams). Goals also need to be realistic. If you’ve never left your couch, climbing Mount Everest is not a good goal.
A resolution could be to “save more money” but a goal would be to skip going to the coffee shop every day and deposit $100 into your bank account every month.
How do you create goals that set you up for success? Read on friends:
First, determine your goals.
Think about what you want to accomplish and create tangible goals that will get you there. Give your goal very specific details so there will be no doubt when it has been completed.
Then, narrow your list.
The longer your list of goals, the less likely you are to achieve them. Instead of trying to fix everything in 2016, pick out the two most important goals on your list and focus on those.
Now, write them down.
According to this study, people who write down what they want to accomplish are more successful. Post them somewhere as a visual reminder of what you’re working toward.
And say them out loud.
Your odds of success get even better if you speak your goals out loud by telling a friend. Telling others can provide support; hold you more accountable and help celebrate your success. Put it on social media to really up the ante.
And get another person in your corner.
Finding someone else with a similar goal is helpful. When one of you has strayed from the path, the other can steer you back on track. Can’t find another like-minded individual? Hiring a coach or seeking out a mentor to keep you accountable and motivated are good options.
Break it down and act.
You can visualize it, write it down and shout it from the mountain but if you never put the plan to action, none of it matters. Break the goal into smaller pieces and create action steps for this month. Then break those into smaller weekly and finally daily steps towards your goal. Then stop writing and go check things off today’s list!
Chart your progress.
Yes, just like a kindergartener, make a chart of your benchmarks (inspiration can be found here on pinterest) and put a gold star there when you achieve them. It’s fun to see a visual representation of your progress! Hey, it works for five year olds.
Reward your success.
When you hit a benchmark, feel free to reward yourself but don’t let the reward sabotage your goal. If your goal is to cook more meals at home, don’t make dinner out the reward. Stay on track and celebrate at home.
Focus on what matters.
Do steps that impact your success first. Weighing yourself may be part of your weight loss plan but staying within your daily calorie limit is what will get you results.
Set yourself up for success.
Trying to stop snacking late at night? Make a checklist of reasons for why you might experience late night cravings as well as solutions for dealing with them.
If a craving induced feeding frenzy crops up at 9pm, stop and look at your sanity checklist before you go off the deep end.
Your checklist can be a review of your current state: Am I thirsty? Bored? Tired?
It can also include solutions to keep you on track: drink a glass of water, have a cup of herbal tea, or chew on a stick of gum.
Sanity checklists can also be a simple list of necessary things or actions for your next bold move. Hitting the gym early in the am before work? Check the list: is the alarm set? Gym bag packed? Coffee machine programmed?
Keep up the momentum.
Most goals don’t happen in a day or two and sometimes it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. While your goal is still fresh and exciting, create a list of benefits from what you are trying to accomplish. When you start to feel derailed or momentum starts to fade, look at your list as a reminder of what all the hard work is about.
What happens once you achieve your goal? Don’t let a vacuum of no direction form around you. Options for your next goal are endless. Create a new one that builds upon what you have achieved or move on to one of the goals that didn’t make the cut earlier when you narrowed your focus. Either way, skip the resolutions and create goals that support the healthy habits you wish to adopt.